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'Tis the Season For Allergy, Asthma

Everything from Christmas trees to fake snow can trigger symptoms, experts warn

SATURDAY, Dec. 1 (HealthDay News) -- It's easy for the holidays to become the season of sneezing, congestion and other woes for people with food or other allergies and asthma, say experts at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).

But some preventive measures can cut symptoms to a minimum, they say.

"Whether it's feasting on holiday meals, setting up your Christmas tree, or visiting your pet-owning relatives, allergy triggers may be lurking inside of our warm, cozy homes this time of year," Alisa M. Smith, vice-chairwoman of the AAAAI's indoor allergen committee, said in a prepared statement. "Unfortunately, with busy schedules, travel time and the stress of the holidays, it is easy to forget to take the proper care when dealing with allergies and asthma. However, avoiding potential triggers and taking the proper precautions is necessary to keep symptoms under control."

The AAAAI offers the following tips for people with asthma and different types of allergies:

  • When you're at parties or family gatherings, inform your hosts about your food allergy and ask about the ingredients used to prepare the meal.
  • Always carry an injectable dose of epinephrine. Homemade meals/snacks don't have ingredient lists and may be contaminated with trace of amounts of allergenic foods through contact with storage containers or kitchen utensils.
  • Remind family and friends that strict avoidance is the only way for you to manage food allergies and that even a tiny bit of allergenic foods can trigger a dangerous allergic reaction.
  • If you're visiting homes where there are pets, take your allergy medication beforehand.
  • Real Christmas trees often carry microscopic mold spores that can cause allergic symptoms such as sneezing, water eyes, and an itchy nose.
  • Decorations and artificial trees can gather mold and dust while in storage. Clean them before you start putting them up.
  • Artificial snow can irritate your lungs if you inhale it. Be sure to follow directions when spraying artificial snow on windows or other surfaces.
  • The stress of the holiday season can sometimes trigger an asthma attack. Monitor your stress levels. If you do feel stressed, deep breathing and relaxation may help.
  • If you're sleeping away from home, bring your own pillow with an allergen-proof cover. Ask for down-free pillows.
  • Avoid wood smoke, which can trigger an asthma attack.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about controlling allergy symptoms.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, news release; Nov. 5, 2007

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